Charleston County Council has voted to commit about $500,000 to promote the British Airways flights between the Lowcountry and London, one of several sizable contributions from local and state agencies to support the new route.
When the carrier announced in October that it would bring nonstop service to Charleston International next spring, the move was praised as an economic boon for the region. The flight, which launches in April, is projected to have a $20.2 million annual impact. It is South Carolina's first-ever trans-Atlantic commercial flight.
But snagging the deal required some investment upfront, including financial incentives and airport improvements. Charleston International committed to about $9 million in construction and renovation projects. The S.C. Department of Commerce is giving about $1.3 million in route support for the first season.
The county's contributions will come in two equal parts of about $253,200 during the current fiscal year and for the 2019-2020 winter season. Those funds, along with equal contributions from Explore Charleston, will go toward joint marketing support for the flight.
County Council approved the details of the financial incentive unanimously and without discussion at its Dec. 20 meeting.
It also agreed to accept the initial $1.3 million pledge from the Commerce Department. Those funds, awarded as a grant, will be managed by the county through its economic development office.
The flight connection between Charleston and Heathrow Airport has been viewed by supporters as an opportunity to expand international business relations in the Lowcountry and possibly attract a major corporate headquarters from overseas.
In October, Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said the business community's reaction to the flight announcement was "past positive" and had incited "almost giggly excitement" over its possibilities.
The twice-weekly flights, which have been on sale since mid-October, will Thursday and Sunday from April 4 to Oct. 24.
Passengers will fly on a Boeing 787-8, some of which are made in North Charleston. The jet will hold 214 people in three cabin classes for the roughly nine-hour flight.
British Airways has added a Charleston-specific landing page to its website, encouraging travelers to book for the first springtime flights and to "Find a spring in your step in Charleston."
A brief pitch for the destination highlights the Holy City's cobblestone streets, "seafood delights," historic forts and "beaming locals." It's a familiar description with a slight British touch: Visitors are encouraged to stop by King Street for "a spot of brunch."
Travelers from the United Kingdom are already consistently the largest group of overseas tourists to Charleston every year, according to figures from Explore Charleston. Some of the demographic's top travel interests — including beaches, golf, fine food and history — align with the Lowcountry's most popular offerings.